From Vertical to Horizontal – Why?

This is the first in a three-part series:

The whole process of how to provide IT Services to an organization is going through a transformation. Much like technology cycles of the past (mainframe to distributed, PC revolution, Internet and cloud), IT departments and companies have also had to shift their work models. We’ve had shared services, outsourcing and now, the current shift to IT as a Service (ITaaS). EMC defines ITaaS as a:

…business centric approach which focuses on outcomes, operational efficiency, competitiveness, and rapid response. It optimizes the production and consumption of services consistent with business requirements.

Several elements come together to help drive the need for this change:

  1. Demand for IT solutions
  2. IT solutions need to be sustainable
  3. IT professionals need to shift their focus

Why? First, we have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for technology solutions. Recent consumer experience with technology has created heightened expectations for ease of use and mobility. New to the scene is the ability to leverage social tools in the enterprise to tap into knowledge and networks of expertise; engage associates in various professional and personal interests; and connect with customers and prospective customers in very different ways. Finally, the volumes of data that could unlock new understanding is just now starting to be tapped while there are large initiatives (network of things) that will provide exponentially more data.

IT groups are moving from focusing on providing infrastructure and large enterprise applications (systems of record) to helping drive new client services and products; new ways of collaborating across time, place, distance and organization; and rich methods of connecting with clients and prospects (systems of engagement).

IT personnel are expected to be able to provide and support more tools and software in an anytime, anyplace with anyone scenario. Traditional approaches are no longer able to meet these needs.

Second, IT solutions must be sustainable (meaning: able to be maintained). IT organizations have typically been largely reactive, focused on infrastructure and large enterprise applications. These have long provisioning cycles and long life cycles with plenty of maintenance in-between. A proactive stance— helping create a business outcome—is now expected. Solutions need to be simple and elegant, not inflexible and hard to learn. Approaches must be agile and not rigid. We must build solutions with building blocks and not make every unique solution to order. This second driver also requires a transformative shift.

Last, but most importantly, it’s about people. IT professionals are being asked to do a lot: provide excellent client service, deep technical expertise, solid routine operations and maintenance while communicating clearly in business terms. Concurrently we’ve moving from comfortable well-known solutions to cloud and multi-vendor solutions fraught with all of the pluses and minuses of “new.”

People are developing their skills, interacting with more internal and external parties, and putting together integrated solutions to provide business value. These are most often not generic, same-as-last-time approaches.

The solution involves moving to IT as a Service. This chart illustrates the model for ITaaS that we are beginning to employ at Wipfli.

vertical to horizontal

The paradigm shift involves transitioning from the primary focus being vertical silos of capabilities (infrastructure, network, applications, business analysis, project management and help desk) to a horizontal set of services broken down into three broad phases: design, build and run. Services are what is consumed; consider these examples:

  • “Communications and collaboration” service includes email, phone, web meetings and instant messaging,
  • “Workstation” service includes laptop, remote access, web access, office productivity applications and security components.

Information technology organizations must orient their operations to provide easy to consume, responsive and transparent services and not force consumers to feel like they are receiving a service produced by hand-offs between individual siloed departments.



2 Comments on “From Vertical to Horizontal – Why?”

  1. […] From Vertical to Horizontal –Why? […]

  2. […] and many of the other retailers should take note. Much like my previous posts on IT as a Service (here and here), we need to thoughtfully design the experience we desire. If not, we’re just standing […]

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